- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Two reactions, in particular, stood out Tuesday when the New Orleans Pelicans landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery and earned the right to take Zion Williamson.

First, the team’s Twitter account uploaded a video of its ticket office erupting in celebration at the news. Later, the NBA revealed a behind-the-scenes video of Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry rising out his chair, yelling and high-fiving his rival executives in the quiet room where the drawing took place.

Gentry and the ticket office both knew what the moment meant: The Pelicans — one of the smallest markets in the NBA — suddenly have a bright future with Williamson, who they can draft officially on June 20. The former Duke star has the athleticism, size and potential to be a franchise-changing player.

In a response to that excitement, New Orleans sold 2,000 new season tickets after winning the lottery, The Advocate reported.

Just days ago, New Orleans appeared headed for a dreadful summer.



The Pelicans were almost certainly going to trade disgruntled star Anthony Davis, who demanded out midseason. General Manager David Griffin publicly maintained he wanted to repair the team’s relationship with Davis, but Davis‘ pending free agency in 2020 meant the Pelicans had to recoup something for him — or watch him walk for nothing.

Now with Williamson, can the Pelicans convince the six-time All-Star to stay? The Athletic reported that Davis still wants to be dealt, though New Orleans‘ leverage is considerably greater than before.

For instance, the Pelicans can now afford to take Davis‘ drama into the regular season. If Davis likes playing with Williamson and the team starts winning, could that change his mind? If Davis remains unhappy, other teams will still be eager to trade for the superstar in February at the trade deadline.

The Pelicans could always look to trade Davis this summer, which isn’t a terrible option given they’re in a position to pair another young player with Williamson. It didn’t take long for experts and fans to dream of a reuniting the 18-year-old with R.J. Barrett in a draft-day trade involving the New York Knicks’ No. 3 pick.

For the excitement to pay off, Williamson has to live up to the hype. Few are worried about that.

At Duke, the 18-year-old dominated — averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game en route to winning the Naismith Award for the nation’s best player. He showed flexibility by playing a number of positions and by being a force on both ends of the floor. Williamson became a national sensation, and for good reason.

Entering Tuesday, New Orleans had just a 6% chance to gain the No. 1 pick. The Pelicans finished the season with a 33-49 record, but their year was worse than that. On top of Davis demanding a trade, former general manager Dell Demps was fired. After New Orleans‘ final game, Gentry used the word “toxic” to describe Davis‘ situation.

Davis appeared in only 56 games, limiting his playing time after demanding a trade in January. The 26-year-old further irritated fans when he wore a “That’s All Folks” t-shirt to New Orleans‘ season-finale.

At one point, Davis generated excitement for New Orleans. After all, he was the first overall pick in 2012 — the first time the franchise (then the Hornets) unexpectedly won the lottery.

He was seen as the franchise’s savior. That title that now belongs to Williamson.

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